Brief Fact Summary. After a jury trial, Mia McCoy (Defendant) was found negligent and, pursuant to the jury’s verdict, Joanne C. Williams (Plaintiff) was awarded $3,000 in damages for her injuries, which stemmed from an automobile collision between the two parties. After the verdict, Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied, and the trial court entered judgment in Plaintiff’s favor for the above amount. Plaintiff appeals the judgment entered in her favor here.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Evidence of whether a plaintiff has hired an attorney is admissible for the purposes of impeachment as to a litigious plaintiff, and is relevant to rebut the existence of a plaintiff’s injuries. Under Rule 411, testimony offered to prove the existence of insurance coverage is inadmissible when offered to show whether the insured party acted negligently, but when offered for another purpose, as was the case here, such testimony is not per se inadmissible.
In a negligence action, is evidence of whether the plaintiff has hired an attorney admissible to impeach the plaintiff, and is such evidence relevant to rebut the existence and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries?
Was it error, under North Carolina Rule 411, for the lower court to not permit Plaintiff to explain an answer given in testimony concerning the reason Plaintiff hired an attorney prior to visiting a physician?
Held. The court reverses the trial court’s judgment and remands the case for a new trial.
Yes; based on North Carolina precedent, an inquiry into when a plaintiff hired an attorney is admissible to impeach a “litigious” plaintiff and such evidence is relevant to rebut the existence and extent of the injuries claimed.
Yes; Plaintiff should have been allowed to explain her answer because Plaintiff’s explanation was offered for a purpose other than to prove the existence of liability insurance.
Whether the exclusion of testimony violated a defendant's right to present a defense depends upon whether the omitted evidence evaluated in the context of the entire record creates a reasonable doubt that did not otherwise exist.View Full Point of Law